SHARE Atlanta Pregnancy and Newborn Grief Support Sibling Grief

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Sharing with our children during or right after the loss.

Mary Catherine
by Todd J., Age 7
(Mary Catherine's Brother)
You were like a caterpillar
Who turned into a beautiful butterfly
then went to heaven to be with God.
What's it like up there, Mary Catherine?
Do you grow when you're in heaven?
Will you have birthdays?
I'll never forget you and I love you
As if you were alive and with us.
SHARE Atlanta

All of these suggestions have been discussed at one time or another in our SHARE meetings. Sibling grief is a major concern - one that was touched on in CNN's "The Parenting Today" program that featured our group.

  • From the beginning, listen to your child. Give undivided attention at different times of the day for communication to happen. A "quiet time" together is a wonderful sharing space. This also assures the child that you are still there for them.

  • Speak honestly, in simple language about what has happened to the baby - start with what is familiar (mommy was pregnant, in hospital) and move to what has happened.

  • If possible, include the child in holding and, maybe, naming this baby. Many bring "their" baby a love present - wearing the "Big Brother or Sister" shirt that they might already have. Even babies who have birth defects or who have died are usually dearly loved by their sibling. They usually remember soft skin, a peaceful baby, or the cute stuffed bear that the baby had. Most of all they remember being included.

  • Remember childhood fantasies may be worse than the reality of the situation.

  • If need be, reassure your child that no one did anything wrong.

  • Explain as much as you can as to "what to expect"

  • Allow the child plenty of time for "processing" this information. Listen for questions and openings for additional needed information or for repeating facts that may need clarification.

  • Reassure your child of any positive facts you can: mother is fine; we are together; any facts about the day that you are sure about (grandmother is coming), etc.

  • Let your child express feelings - give ideas for coping with new or unusual reactions. Visit SHARE Atlanta's Workshop on "Coping mechanisms/suggestions on how to survive!"

  • Let your child see you express your feelings and how you cope with them. Remember you are a role model for you child. (If you never cry or show pain, they will feel that this is wrong. If you write in a journal to deal with your pain, explain this to them. Your child may be encouraged to draw or work with clay to release pain. It's a beginning.)

  • Include your child in forming new or established family traditions/rituals and choosing mementos. Often they have their own ideas about what to do.
    See drop down box "Coping Ideas/Mementos"

  • Your child needs plenty of support in hugs, closeness, and being able to participate in activities as he needs to. It's fine to take a break from routine, if you need to.

  • Gather appropriate reading material from the book store or library. Refer to drop down box Links/Books and Links/Groups

    Return to "Sibling Grief Menu"

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